Around one in four people in the UK suffer from an allergy. The term is used to describe a range of different reactions that people experience from various irritants (allergens) such as dust, pollen, or animal dander. These occur when the body’s immune system reacts to these substances as if they were something harmful. Why this happens is unclear, as is why the number of people who suffer with allergies is on the rise each year. One theory is that the more germ free a life we live, the less our body has to deal with, so it overreacts when any “harmful” substance is introduced. Allergies can come on at any point in your life, often with no apparent trigger.
There are also other conditions that can be confused for an allergy. These include intolerance which doesn’t involve the immune system, but can still cause unpleasant symptoms such as reflux (milk is often a common intolerance), and sensitivity which is an exaggeration of the normal effects of the substance, so, for example, mild spice may taste extremely hot or caffeine could lead to palpitations.
Some of the most common allergens include:
Most symptoms of an allergic reaction are mild but uncomfortable. They usually come on within the first few minutes of exposure to an allergen and can include:
Sometimes an allergy can be severe, as is often the case with peanuts, for example, and lead to something known as anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock.
The symptoms of this can be:
If any of these begin to occur it is vital that you seek urgent medical attention as anaphylaxis is extremely serious.
Here at Ramsay we offer allergy testing to ascertain whether you are suffering from an allergy. These tests are often painless and quick. Our specialists have many years’ experience working in the field and have helped countless people with mild/severe allergies carry on with their lives.
Once you have been diagnosed your Consultant will create a tailored treatment and prevention plan with you to help limit your contact with your allergen, and to help you understand what you can do if you do have a reaction.
Unfortunately there is no cure yet for allergies. If you have one it’s often the case that you’ll have to work out the best way to manage it. Sometimes an allergy may disappear on its own, or using desensitisation techniques (under medical supervision). This is where your body is exposed to the allergen is increasingly larger doses over a long period of time with the hope that your body stops recognising it as hostile. Other, less extreme ways that you can manage your allergy include:
Medical advice is required before starting some of these.
There are a number of steps you can take that will help keep you safe as well as making managing your allergies that little bit easier. They include:
Wear a medical alert bracelet
A medical alert bracelet is worn on the wrist and can provide medical professionals with vital information, such as your allergies and any other medical conditions, should you find yourself unable to communicate with them.
Search for useful apps
In recent years as smartphones have become far more commonplace, numerous apps have been developed with the intention of helping those that suffer from allergies. There are ones that scan barcodes from food items to alert of any potential allergens, and others that know which restaurants near you are the most accommodating, etc. Search online for ones that you believe will be best suited for your own particular allergy.
It’s easier said than done for a lot of allergens. Below are a few tips for avoiding the most common:
Always take the time to ensure that you fill out any medical forms correctly and alert medical staff to your allergies
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